The moment is soon to arrive: at 3 a.m. tonight, I must haul my fat ass out of bed, take a shower, get dressed, have breakfast (if I can actually manage to swallow anything at that time of night without vomiting), again haul the aforementioned ass to the downtown Greyhound station, and catch a shuttle to take me to the international airport, where I shall fly away to the land of yurts. No, not Mongolia. Northern California.
come hither - back off
You see, I write poetry. No, no - not x-rated limericks. OK - not only x-rated limericks. Actual poems. No, there is no mention of crushed souls or broken, bleeding hearts anywhere. No, there are no rainbows. Yes, they are actual, bona fide poems, the sort of thing that, these days, only other writers of poetry read. Yes, I'm actually going to a writer's workshop to write poetry. And live in a yurt.
This is the first time I have ever decided to attend a writer's retreat / workshop in person. Normally I simply contact writers I respect and admire via mail or email, see if they're willing to help a girl out, and get my education and enlightenment that way. It's safer that way. Oh no - not safer for me. Safer for them.
I'm, erm, slightly opinionated about the things I read. No, really! I know - you'd never guess, would you? Well, it turns out that the things people are willing to read about their work, they're not quite as willing to have said to their face. Supposedly this whole dreaded 30-year-long self-esteem movement that's been going on in the creative arts community means that one is allowed to write utter and complete dreck and get praise and accolades for it. Look, I've thrown paint through a jet engine onto a garbage sculpture of a kangaroo! It's art! Yes, dear, yes it is - it's art. What a good girl you are. There there, you artist you. Oh, and look - I've written a volume of shit I call poetry that is actually a collection of pages torn out of my teenage diary! Isn't it poetic? Oh my, yes, dear, it is. You are most certainly a poet, you are.
No wonder hardly anyone reads poetry these days. The drivel they're told is poetry would probably have turned off even T.S. Eliot from ever reading poetry again. Go to any bookstore and try to find the poetry section. When you do, it will usually take up about half a small shelf and be filled mostly with the horrors of Maya Angelou, Jewel, Rod McKuan and Charles Bukowski. *shudder* Of course no one reads poetry anymore - damn, if Bukowski's work is the average human being's typical introduction to poetry, can you blame them for running headlong in the other direction? I mean, really. This is a typical poem by Charles Bukowski:
drunk on the dark streets of some city,
it's night, you're lost, where's your
you enter a bar to find yourself,
order scotch and water.
damned bar's sloppy wet, it soaks
part of one of your shirt
It's a clip joint-the scotch is weak.
you order a bottle of beer.
Madame Death walks up to you
wearing a dress.
she sits down, you buy her a
beer, she stinks of swamps, presses
a leg against you.
the bartender sneers.
you've got him worried, he doesn't
know if you're a cop, a killer, a
madman or an
you ask for a vodka.
you pour the vodka into the top of
the beer bottle.
It's one a.m. In a dead cow world.
you ask her how much for head,
drink everything down, it tastes
like machine oil.
you leave Madame Death there,
you leave the sneering bartender
you have remembered where
your room is.
the room with the full bottle of
wine on the dresser.
the room with the dance of the
Perfection in the Star Turd
where love died
I know - how could I actually make you read that shit by including it anywhere on this page? I swear, it was just to provide an example. Trust me, I would have rather stuck a #9 knitting needle through my left eye than read that. Less painful.
Speaking of #9 knitting needles through the eye, one of the three teachers of the workshop, a poet by the name of Ellen Bass, sent the participants "homework" - 4 poems from an anthology compiled by one of the three teachers as well as one poem by each of the teachers. We're to read them and make note of what we like about them. Strangely, I wasn't given the option of making note of what I dislike about them, and trust me, I have a list. Any poem that contains lines like this -
is a night if there's a dawn always lurking somewhere in the future?
How can I ever be completely certain of the stars if they fade
so easily before such cheap theatrics? When will I learn, as all
my betters have, to live in the moment?
- deserves to be taken out back, doused in kerosene, lit on fire, burned to ashes, and then shot for good measure, just to make sure it's dead.
Obviously I'll have to sit back and watch how the initial show-and-tell session plays out to discover whether these people are serious about writing poetry and are willing to rip something to shreds if they feel it deserves it, or whether we'll all be holding hands singing "Kumbaya". If I come back next Sunday writing like Deepak Chopra, someone hunt me down, shoot me, and put me out of my misery.
I don't regret booking the trip and going to Yurtville, even though I haven't even gone yet. I have ulterior motives, namely getting letters of reference from the teachers for my upcoming application to enter a low-residency MFA of Creative Writing program. These letters, in my case, will be absolutely vital if I'm to stand a chance of getting accepted, since I'll be applying for entrance without a BA and therefore entirely reliant on my portfolio and reference letters. So - I may have to bite the fuck out of my tongue for a week, but I'll manage. After all, there are yurts and naked hot tub hippy soakers there. Doesn't that make up for any amount of painfully bad poetry I may have to read? Besides, if I don't keep myself in check, I may well have to hitchhike back to the airport after they kick me out.
Of course, having managed to rip any number of supposed poets to shreds in this column, I suppose it's only fair, before I leave for a week and become completely incommunicado (they don't allow computers in yurts, it would appear), that I submit for your review one of my own poems. Feel free to do unto it as I have done unto Charles Bukowski - although it can be a little tricky trying to rip to shreds a poem from the inside out through its asshole. It's taken me years of practice and hard work.
This is the first of a series of poems I wrote entitled Sacraments for the Dying. No, I'm not Catholic. I'm not even religious. It's a metaphor, bucko. Bite me.
EDIT: Sorry, guys, this poem had to be removed because I just submitted it.
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